The man Mary Anne Drew wants is marrying someone else! So to win him back, she buys a love potion. Mary Anne's not convinced spells and potions work, but still, she has to do something.
Too bad the wrong manaka Graham Corbettdrinks it.
Then strange things begin to happen .
Graham has never shown any interest in Mary Anne. In fact, their arguments are legendary. But now Graham is acting anything but hostile! Could the potion really work? Or was Mary Anne looking for love in the wrong place all along?
About the Author
Margot Early spent her first years in a dark three-story Tudor mansion, where, gazing out an upper window, she once saw a man fall from the roof. Born late to a large family, she soon became acquainted with the fine shadings of human nature; at the age of 11, she began expressing her findings in the medium of fiction. Early develops the same theme in every book: that darkness and light dwell together, and that truth renders even the ugly and imperfect as beautiful and perfect.
She has studied martial arts and herbalism and enjoys walking in the forest, especially in the shadows, where she is quick to crouch and examine any animal sign. This award-winning bestselling author has written 10 Harlequin Superromances and one novella; her storytelling is to romance fiction what Siouxie and the Banshees are to pop music. There are three million of her books in print in seven languages and 15 countries. Margot Early dwells in the shifting landscape of Colorado's San Juan Mountains with her loved ones.
Read an Excerpt
Logan, West Virginia
Mary Anne Drew was at her desk at The Logan Standard and the Miner when Cameron brought the news. Cameron, who was Mary Anne's first cousin and best friend, grabbed a chair and straddled it, facing Mary Anne. "They're engaged."
Mary Anne did not ask who. She said, "No," in a way that was sort of like a prayer.
Her face showing that she knew she was causing pain, Cameron said, "Yes. Angie and her friends were drinking martinis at the Face last night and Rhonda waited on them, and she told me that's the news. She doesn't have a ring yet, though."
It couldn't be true. Mary Anne smothered her feelings in a cascade of repetitions of this thought.
She'd been in love with Jonathan Hale for four years, ever since he'd arrived in Logan from Cincinnati to manage the public radio station, WLGN. She'd never experienced anything like it. At first, she'd thought nothing of the tall dark-haired man with his wire-rimmed glasses and matter-of-fact manner. Yes, she'd been impressed with the time he'd spent working overseas as a correspondent for Reuters. She knew he'd seen dreadful things in war zones, things he didn't discuss. Then, one day when she'd come in to record an essay, he'd sat listening and watching her with brooding intensity. Afterward, he'd said, "That was good work, Mary Anne. I'm going to try to get it out to as many other stations as I can."
She'd looked into his blue eyes and she had felt something that was almost like an arrow through the heart. She'd never understood where that image of Eros had come from until that moment; she'd been nailed by the arrows of Aphrodite's son. The sheer force of the experience convinced her that Jonathan Hale was meant to be hers.
She believed it still.
Cameron asked, "Are you okay?"
No, she wasn't okay! She was dying. How could she go through the next five minutes, let alone the rest of her life, knowing that Jonathan Hale planned to wed that tacky and tiny thing, Angie Workman, who was manager of the Blooming Rose, the closest thing Logan had to a boutique. To bolster the notion that this news meant nothing to her, she said, "Aren't you working?"
Cameron was director of the Logan County Women's Resource Center, located next door to the newspaper office.
"Coffee break. A client's mother came in and told her marriage is for life and she's ashamed that her own daughter should seek a divorce from the fine man who broke three bones in her face last week. She wound up by calling yours truly and our legal-aid attorney godless man-haters. I'm cooling off." Cameron switched back to Mary Anne's concerns. "I have a last-chance idea. Just for fun. Not that it will work. But it would be fun to find out if it could work."
Mary Anne studied her cousin. Like Mary Anne, Cameron was blondor somewhat blond. They had the same light brown hair, which became lighter in the sun. But there the resemblance ended.
Cameron, to Mary Anne's envy, was small. In fact, genes had granted her the kind of body that was currently in vogueboyishly small hips and a pair of tatas that made men stare. She was a natural athlete who never drove if she could walk, run or ride a bike to get where she needed to go. Her idea of a good time on weekends was leading Women of Strength events for the women from the resource center's shelter. She had a black belt in tae kwon do and was an experienced caver. Mary Anne, on the other hand, knew that her own rear end would benefit from less time in chairs and in the driver's seat of her car.
Cameron was five foot five. Mary Anne was five foot ten. And Mary Anne lived for haute coutureafter all, before settling in Logan she had worked for two different women's magazines in New York and could swear that everything in The Devil Wears Prada was true. Cameron's clothes came from thrift shops. Mary Anne indulged in highlights, and Cameron wouldn't dream of it. Mary Anne was an editor and reporter for The Logan Standard and the Miner; Cameron had the aforementioned challenging job of safeguarding the welfare of women and children.
Being that Cameron had a set of requirements for any man with whom she might be involved, Mary Anne was touched by her cousin's interest in helping her secure Jonathan Hale's affection and desire. Jonathan nearly met Cameron's prerequisite for a man ready for marriage. Though he was employed and wasn't an alcoholic, Mary Anne doubted he'd ever had therapy, something Cameron insisted all males required. Cameron herself also wanted a man who didn't need to reproduce, who was willing to adopt. "There are plenty of children in the world," Cameron would say. "Children who need good homes."
The truth, Mary Anne knew, was that Cameron had watched her own sister go through an agonizing labor, which concluded with a cesarean section. She had told Mary Anne, "Never. I will never "
Mary Anne liked the idea of having children. No, she wanted children. This fact had given her dreams about Jonathan an extra edge of desperation. "What's the last-ditch idea?" she asked Cameron.
Cameron's brown eyes gleamed, looking almost black. "A love potion."
This suggestion was soooo Cameron. You would think, Mary Anne often reflected, that a woman who heard heinous stories of domestic abuse, rape and what-have-you every day, would have surgically removed every last romantic cell in her body. Cameron claimed that this was the case. It just wasn't. And whenever Cameron did become romantic, it was things like this
The fortune teller at the state fair, who'd told Cameron she would marry a dark-haired brown-eyed man; the astrologer who said Cameron would become united with her soul mate through "unconventional means." Chain letters with the message, "You will meet the love of your life within five days of sending this to five people. Do not break the chain!" And, no, Mary Anne was not exempt from Cameron's bizarre schemes.
She forced skepticism to the forefront as she confronted her cousin. "Supposing that such a thing workedwhich it won't. How are you proposing to obtain it?"
"Paul's mom," Cameron said simply. "The hippie midwife ?"
Paul was what Cameron had instead of a boyfriend well, she also had a dog, Mary Anne knew. Paul Cureux was a childhood friend who was totally allergic to the idea of commitmentthough Mary Anne had pointed out that he did have dark hair and brown eyes. Since Cameron was hypercritical of nearly every man she met, she and Paul had made some sort of agreement to give other people the impression that they were a couple. Then Cameron wouldn't have to deal with being pursued by men who'd never had therapyPaul hadn't, eitherand Paul wouldn't have to elude women who wanted to marry him and have his children. It was an arrangement Mary Anne had never understood, especially since Paulwho usually had weekend gigs playing guitar and singing folk music that must have made every woman who heard him know she was aliveseemed to enjoy making women fall in love with him. Mary Anne had once asked her cousin, "Do you have a thing for him?"
"I have a thing for no man," Cameron had replied. "Except the god."
She did not mean Paul Cureux. Mary Anne did not think the man to whom Cameron referred was even remotely divineand neither did she think his psychological house was in the immaculate order Cameron believed it to be. Now, she said, "Paul's mother makes love potions?"
"Yes. Don't you remember? The radio station did that interview with her."
Mary Anne didn't remember. She said, "No," but she didn't mean that she didn't remember. She only meant that she wasn't ready to try anything so silly.
Cameron shrugged. "Your choice. I don't see being single as problematic, but you do. And you've liked this guy for years, though he'd probably make you miserable."
Mary Anne resented the last comment. She knew Cameron found Jonathan Hale far less appealing than she did, but she hated Cameron's insistence that there was a worm in the apple.
Mary Anne simply shook her head. "I have work to do."
Cameron stood up, shaking back her two long braids. "Back to the mines. If you do stop by the radio station, give my regards to the deity."
"I don't speak to that man if I can help it."
When Cameron was gone, Mary Anne sat down in her cubicle and tried to read her piece on the Harvest Tea. She needed to edit it and complete the society page by ten tonight. Her title at the paper was associate editor, and in practice it meant she did a bit of everything. She edited sections on society and the arts, and she covered news and features as they arose.
Barbara Rollins, President of the St. Luke's Catholic Church Altar Society, provided a light sponge cake
The Harvest Tea just could not compete with the calamity of Jonathan Hale's engagement. Though Jonathan always treated Mary Anne respectfully, he didn't seem to notice her as a woman. Which might be appropriate in someone else's boyfriend. Which he was.
Maybe Cameron was right. Maybe it was worth trying one last insane thing before it was too late. The love potion wouldn't work. Mary Anne did remember the interview with Clare Cureux, though Cameron was wrong about the focus. Jonathan Hale's focus had been rural health-care providers. Mary Anne, herself, had heard him give a firm negative to the questions of Graham Corbett, Logan's insufferable radio talk-show host, who believed he'd single-handedly put Logan County, West Virginia, on the map. Jonathan had said, "She did not mention the love potions, and I didn't ask."
A love potion was a ridiculous idea. But Mary Anne wondered if she could find a pretext for dropping in at the radio station. Are they really engaged? Maybe the rumor was false. She thought for a minute, then rose from her desk, pulling on her gray wool blazer and slinging her leather handbag over a shoulder. Hurrying past the office of the editor in chief, she gave him a wave, glad he was on the phone and couldn't ask where the hell she thought she was going. No need to fabricate a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She hurried down the stairs of the brick building and outside. Fall was in the air, the smell of dried leaves, abrisk wind, no more sweltering summer days that made her hair limp. She stepped to the curb, looked both ways and waited for a pickup truck to pass before running across Main Street in front of an approaching stream of cars. She passed the soda fountain and hurried into the historic brick structure next door, the Embassy Building, which housed WLGN.
Don't let it be true, she thought again. Maybe Cameron had the wrong information about Jonathan and Angie.
As she reached the radio station's glass door, a man swung it open to hold it for her.
Mary Anne felt a rush of distaste, which she hoped showed on her face.
The man who had opened it stood six feet tall and wore his gold-streaked brown hair on the long side, so that it curled around his collar, waving back from his forehead. Frequently, people mistook him for the actor John Cor-bett, but Graham Corbett was not even related. Dr. Graham Corbett. Doctor as in Ph.D., not M.D. Though she knew he did see clients two days a week for counseling, Mary Anne still found Graham Corbett's use of Doctor before his name to be just one more affectation. No doubt if he ever learned that Cameron referred to him as a deity, he'd build a temple in his own honor.
"Ah," he said, "the woman with an ass made for radio."
Mary Anne paused to give him a smile of sweet acidity. "And I thought you were the ass made for radio."
"My angel," he said, "how is the life of the has-been beauty editor and hard-biting reporter of local fashion shows?"
"I can't wait till someone writes the unauthorized biography," she said, "of you." It lacked the power of her previous comeback, and she knew better than to respond to Graham Corbett at all. She should have remembered that his show was on this afternoon and that he always arrived a half hour early, punctual as a Rolex. Without waiting for his reaction, she stepped past him and into the station. Through the glass window of the recording studio, she could see Jonathan Hale interviewing a coal miner who had black lung disease and silicosis. Mary Anne had heard Jonathan talking about the feature only the day before. He was the station manager, but Logan was a small place, even if it was the county seat, and Mary Anne couldn't imagine Jonathan ever completely abandoning reporting.
His eyes flickered at her briefly through the glass as she passed, and she responded with a little nod, then went to the computer terminal where she knew the archives were stored. Not because she needed anything from the archives but because that way she could pretend to have a reason for her appearance.
"To what do we owe this visit?"
Good grief, Graham the Sham had followed her! She said, "Isn't there some other person whose day you'd rather ruin?"
"Absolutely not. I have some news for the society editor of The Logan Standard and the Miner. East of the Rockies magazine has named me one of the country's most eligible bachelors, and People has chosen me one of their fifty most beautiful people."
"They'll need a two-page spread just for your fat head. Please go away." Without glancing at him, she sat down at the terminal to see if there was anything online about the history of the Logan County Harvest Tea. There wouldn't be, but that did not matter.
Graham Corbett crouched beside her to stage-whisper, "They're engaged."
Somebody's half-finished latte sat in a paper cup beside the terminal like an accident waiting to happen. "Oops!" She knocked it off the desk, but he sprang back in timecatching the cup.
She did glance at him then.
He winked, gave her the grin that Cameron called "so appealing" and finally left her, tossing the coffee cup in a trash can on his way.
Mary Anne did not watch him go. Instead, she reflected that if he knew anything about her, he wouldn't have tried to impress her with his mention as a most eligible bachelor, never mind Peopleif that was what he'd been doing. She detested celebrity, thought that even journalists only remained dignified if they kept out of its limelight. Nobody became famous and retained his dignity. Graham Corbett, as far as she was concerned, was no exception. He was, however, becoming famous, his voice as familiar to many people as Garrison Keillor's, and his following stronger than Dr. Laura's. He'd been interviewed on several major television network talk shows already.